Comparison: Sony MDR-CD3000 and Sensaphonics ProPhonic 2X-S
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lindrone

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Comparison: Sony MDR-CD3000 and Sensaphonics ProPhonic 2X-S

When I first decided to order the ProPhonic 2X-S a couple of months ago, my goal was to get a pair of canalphones that was perhaps more complete than either the Etymotics ER-4 and the Shure E5c was individually. What I did not expect was for the ProPhonic 2X-S to slowly take over my listening experience as a whole.

This may seem like a weird comparison at first, as I'm comparing a $800 canalphone to a $400 full-size headphone. As much as I liked the Shure E5c, they were a pair of earphone that I really only used for portable purposes. The superiority of CD3000 in many ways was unquestionable. Even though I still liked E5c's warmth and sound signature, it's very clear that there's shortcomings in the way that E5c sounded agains the CD3000. As for ER-4, which offered a very unique experience in terms of its sound, was never a contender against any full-size headphones in my mind other than its ability to extrapolate details.

Nevertheless there's a special place in my heart for canalphones. Meanwhile spending $800 on a pair of canalphones isn't the most sensible purchase, it was one that made sense for me, given my daily commute and quest for excellence in miniaturization as well as full-size headphones. So before this introduction rambles on any further...

This review will be pretty short and concise (compared to my other very wordy reviews)... you may also want to visit my previous 2X-S review against the E5c and ER-4 for other detailed information that might be missing here:

REVIEW: Sensaphonics ProPhonic 2X-S - Comparison w/ ER-4 and E5c


SOUND PRESENTATION

Both CD3000 and 2X-S both present the sound spectrum in a very balanced fashion in accordance to their own sound signature. There's really no particularly noticeable hump in the sound reproduction at any point for either headphone. Although the presentation is still different, both can be considered pretty flat in its "volume" reproduction (which doesn't take in account for coloration) across the entire spectrum.

The trebles on the CD3000 is more extended than the 2X-S, which brings out interesting sound characteristic that'll be talked about later on. In comparison, 2X-S treble feels more natural, although is it also very well articulated. The 2X-S has a deeper bass extension, able able to produce some really deep rumbles that seems to be slightly missing on the CD3000. Here the difference is slight. Where CD3000's bass feels more spacious and a little faster, 2X-S bass has more texture and control.

The midrange resolution of the 2X-S is definitely more pronounced than the CD3000. Although it could also be a direct result of the way that CD3000 reproduces its soundstage. The 2X-S's sound presentation is definitely more upfront, due to the nature of it being a canalphone. In this sense, the midrange resolution that the 2X-S offers as a result is a definite advantage.

Overall, 2X-S is warmer than the CD3000, and both are very exciting and engaging.


SOUNDSTAGE/IMAGING

There's no question that as a full-size headphone, CD3000 has a much, much larger soundstage than the 2X-S. Of course, it's a hard criterium to live up to for any canalphone, as CD3000 beats all other headphone I know of in its price class in terms of its capability to project a large soundstage.

2X-S's soundstage is definitely still one that exists only inside your head. However, they did a very good job at pushing out that soundstage to a more realistic level. It feels that it's sitting on the edge on the inside of your head, but certainly doesn't extend much further outside of your head. Given its relatively small soundstage though, the 2X-S still does a very good job in projecting sound in different placements both in terms of positioning and distance.

Of course, CD3000's imaging and soundstage are both unrivaled by the 2X-S in any fashion. However a part of this "concert hall" sort of feeling also produces one negative side-effect. The midrange of the CD3000 does sound a bit more distant than it should be by comparison. It does produce an effect that makes me feel like I'm sitting in the 10th row of a concert or so, and the vocalist standing further away from me. Keep in mind I have never though CD3000's vocals were distant before, but only in comparison with the 2X-S that I felt that way. Even compared to Grados, I had much preferred CD3000's midrange presentation.


INSTRUMENT REPRODUCTION/DETAILS

This is one area where 2X-S just really shines. The subtle microdynamics that the 2X-S can produce is uncomparable. Even though CD3000 is known to articulate very well, there's a lot more subtle characteristic that gets lost in CD3000's excitement that 2X-S can reproduce very well. Not to say that 2X-S is not exciting or emotionally engaging, in fact, it is every bit as exciting and engaging as CD3000.

Part of this can be credits to its isolation, the background just becomes so silent and quiet, that all you really har is the music. CD3000 has some reverb and other things going on that never really goes away, regardless of what sound is being played. So the really subtle details really comes through better on the 2X-S. What are these subtle details? I've already mentioned them in my first 2X-S review, but just to reiterate some of them:

Vocals are just not notes anymore, but each syllable and each breath that the singer takes seems to be clear and defined as well. You can note the subtle differences going from one vowel to the next. Instruments such as guitars not only blend beautifully, but retains the decaying vibration from each pluck that blends into the next. Cymbals doesn't just "ding", but they "chime" a little bit in that slightly dry, controlled fashion. Bass takes on much more texture and tonality.. there's a definite difference between bass produced that should not have much reverb and physical vibration versus those that does. The type of bass response, resulting blending of bass and vibration is really defined from different type of bass instrument to another.

There are certain instruments which sound more articulated, such as acoustic guitars, on the CD3000, also partly due to its heightened treble representation. You do hear each pluck more clearer than you do on the 2X-S, but you lose part of the decay and blend which just seems more natural on the 2X-S.


VOCAL PRESENTATION

As mentioned before, part of the midrange being further away, as well as lack of very slight details once again, puts the 2X-S ahead of CD3000. Vocals really do take on a life on 2X-S that doesn't quite happen with the CD3000, in fact, hasn't happened with any headphones that I've tried extensively up until now. It's a combination of having both a life-like reproduction as well as little details that adds up to the overall effect.

On some really delicate recordings, such as Norah Jones, there's characteristic about her voice that I haven't felt before, and probably unlikely to ever feel unless I was at one of her life concerts. On some not so delicate recordings, such as Christina Aguilera, her voice just comes blaring through, and you truly appreciate just how awesome her vocal capabilities are.

I even went back and dug up some old CD's that I haven't listened to, and started to reappreciate them once again with newfound emotional involvement. Artists such as Duncan Sheik had always had a good voice and wrote good songs, but now they do sound like something really subtly different, just a little bit more of their musical genius shows through. I'm now again in the process of looking through old CD's that I've failed to appreciate the first time around.


SYSTEM SYNERGY

I've always been one of the proponent of building a proper system for CD3000. You really have to make sure you've got everything set in place when you listen to the CD3000, from source, amp, all the way to the headphone. Otherwise CD3000 will reveal faults in your set-up in a very harsh and unfriendly way. The reward is equally as great as well. Almost all high-end headphone has some system synergy issue in one way or another, so I neve thought that building a system for CD3000 is that big of a deal.

However, having something like the 2X-S is a treat, because it's not only great in revealing details, it is also a surprising forgiving headphone. You can plug it into a crap source and still get good sound from it. Although they do sound so much better, especially in terms of extracting detail, when they're properly plugged into a good source, they don't sound inferior to any other headphone when they're not.

If you rank each headphone on its own scale of 1 to 100, an improperly paired CD3000 would give you maybe 70 at best, where 2X-S will consistently deliver you a 80~85. That's an important factor, especially given that 2X-S is an IEM, and is designed to perform under adverse conditions (plugged into a wireless receiver belt-pack for on-stage use). Its tolerance just gives you much more versatility in building systems, and using it in different situations.

Where I can recommend a couple of system pairing for CD3000 that I know works, I can't recommend any for the 2X-S, because I haven't found anything that drastically will *not* work. Just get a good source, good amp, plug it in.. you'll be happy.


CONCLUSION

Have no doubt, I still love my CD3000. They're still my first choice in terms of a full size headphone. However, 2X-S has captured a lot of my overall listening time. The combination of isolation, overall sound quality improvement and versatility just allows me to use the 2X-S in all sorts of situations. I do prefer its warmer sound signature as well, as much as I used to prefer E5c.

The difference is now that the 2X-S is superior in many ways to my CD3000, to a point where I don't feel deficient not having that large soundstage, thus I'm not really making much of a trade-off when I'm using the 2X-S. Now only that, I had a comfort level limitation with the E5c to a certain point, where CD3000 is definitely more comfortable. After all, it's always more comfortable not having to plug something into your ear. 2X-S's custom molding basically eliminated that barrier almost entirely. CD3000 is still more comfortable, but not to a point where it'll ever matter, since my listening sessions will probably be shorter than the time it takes for me to feel uncomfortable with the 2X-S.

So overall, I think 2X-S is the better can.. and for $800, it should very well be, shouldn't it?
 
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cmascatello

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Should I consider it a coincidence that you posted these two reviews and comparisons of the ProPhonics during the same week that I get my IRS refund and got an unsolicited offer from a friend who wants to buy my E5s? Throw in the fact that I had to go to my audiolgist this PM to pick up some stright-up noise reduction custom molded plugs and you have a recipe for a wallet disaster.

Suffice it to say, I pulled the trigger and ordered the 2X-S this PM. I only had to pay $750 (no audiologist fee) and should have them in 7-10 days. I can't wait and my fingers are crossed that I will have the same love of them that you do.
 
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lindrone

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LMAO!!!!!

Yes, timing is everything...
 
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toaster

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it's always only a matter of time for us...
 
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